Monday, August 17, 2015

Fantastic Planet (La Planete Sauvage) – 1973

Running Time:  72 (Mind-Expanding) minutes

Directed By: Rene Laloux

Based Upon: The 1957 novel Oms En Serie by French author Stefan Wul

Voice Cast: JeanValmont

Plot:A band of humans -- known as Oms -- are kept as domesticated pets by an alien race of blue humanoid giants called Traags in director Rene La Loux's animated sci-fi classic….The story centers on an Om named Terr, who escapes his subjugation with a Traag learning device and eventually uses it to educate other Oms and incite them to revolt.” – Netflix.

This trailer isn't 100% save for work (especially if you work in a place that hates surrealism).

 How I discovered it:  Remember that 2000 movie The Cell staring Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn?  There is a brief moment where Ms. Lopez’s character is watching Fantastic Planet.  

I remember seeing this movie back when it was in theaters and wondering, “What the hell is that?”  I somehow (probably IMDB) found the name.  Since then I have seen it on several lists of best animated and best fantasy films. 

Once again, this blog has given me a reason to watch a movie that I’ve been putting off for over a decade. 

Memorable Moment:  Here is the scene that stood out to me the most while watching the film.  It isn't much of a spoiler because it doesn't have much to do with the rest of the film.  We never learn why these characters go through this transformation or what it means, this is a film whose surrealistic visuals go beyond it's relatively standard plot.   


·      Fantastic Planet was an international production between France and Czechoslovakia.  Supposedly, there was almost a coup in which the French director was nearly overthrown to be replaced by a Czech director.
·      In America the film was distributed by Roger Corman, who was mostly known for low budget B-movies and exploitation entertainment.  Among other films, he was behind Death Race 2000, Rock ‘n’ Role High School, and Piranha  (The sequel to which was directed by James Cameron.) 
·     The film won the Special Jury prize at Caans film festival in 1973.
·      Writer Roland Topor was one of the founders of The Panic movement.  This surrealistic movement was also co-founded by Alejandro Jodorowsky who coincidentally directed the film I watched last week, El Topo.
·      The director and writer both (supposedly) worked in a psychiatric hospital and both (once again supposedly) drew inspiration for their surrealistic art from the patients.  

     Who Should Embrace it: While Fantastic Planet's popularity was certainly helped by the drug culture in the 1970's, there is more to the film than just sequences that look funky on an acid trip.

      The movie is filled with strong themes of the horrors that take place when one group takes superiority over another.  A scene in which the Traags exterminate a park that is  home for a horde of tiny humans clearly mirrors the holocaust.  

Likewise, one doesn't have to read too deeply into the film's subtext to see that this is a film that criticizes how we treat members of other species, even our own pets.  The gigantic Traags continually torment and abuse the human-like Oms, often forcing them to fight to the death.  (However, the Oms also do this to one another.)  The race that dominates the planet stubbornly insists that they are "superior" to their smaller counterparts and consistently prevents them from meeting their full potential.  

      And yes, the main draw is the visuals.  This is a film that one watches more for the design than for the plot (in a good way).  Fantastic Planet truly is one of the most imaginative films I have ever seen.  While the 1970's soundtrack can be unintentionally comical at times, the images remain surprisingly unique and fresh.  The film's Daliesque landscape makes Avatar's alien ecosystem seem dull and gray.  This is a film for anyone looking for either a humanistic work of art or simply wants to witness animators push the boundaries of human imagination. 

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